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Giveaways Galore!

I know a lot of my readers really appreciate a great giveaway, so I’m starting a new feature over on my Facebook page. The first Monday of each month I’ll host a giveaway link-up over there, encouraging anyone with a current giveaway open to Canadians to add their link and a description. I’ll post a reminder here as well.

Galore (2013) - IMDb

All giveaways listed must be open to Canadian entrants, but they may also allow US and WW entries.

Head on over, have a peek, and enter away! Or, if you have your own giveaways to list I’d love for you to add them!

The Lone Ranger Live Stream Q&A; on Yahoo! Canada – TODAY!

 

Do you have plans at 4pm EDT?

I recommend tuning-in to THE LONE RANGER trailer debut and live stream Q&A exclusively on Yahoo! Canada featuring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, director Gore Verbinski, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer.. Click below to join!

The Lone Ranger (2013) - IMDb

 

 

From producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, the filmmaking team behind the blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, comes Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ “The Lone Ranger,” a thrilling adventure infused with action and humour, in which the famed masked hero is brought to life through new eyes. Native American spirit warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice—taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humourous friction as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption. “The Lone Ranger” also stars Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson and Helena Bonham Carter. Coming July 3, 2013.

Habitat’s Gingerbread Build – A Deliciously Sweet Way to Give Back as a Family

A couple of weeks back, Boo and I had the opportunity to take part in Habitat for Humanity GTA’s Gingerbread Build. It was a great chance for families to get together and create their own personal gingerbread masterpieces to take home, while enjoying a festive atmosphere and yummy treats. There were raffles, a silent auction, hot chocolate, and even visits from Santa himself!!

Photos: Gingerbread Build is edible architecture for a cause

 

Each kit came with a gingerbread house (either pre-built or ready for construction – your choice), and an assortment of candies and icing for decorating. You could tell that there were some seasoned pros in attendance. They were the ones who had brought a box of cereal squares with them to decorate their roofs with shingles. Every kind of gingerbread house was represented, from the randomly strewn with candies, through ones attempting designs (like ours), right up to these masterpieces. It was pretty awesome. Habitat volunteers were present with extra candies and icing for sale if you used up everything in your kit and still had the desire to decorate more.

 

We ended up taking ours to finish at home, along with an extra bag of icing. Boo had started outlining the windows in Nibs, and when we ran out nothing was going to substitute. I made it to Bulk Barn finally, so we’ll be finishing up our house this weekend.

 

This was a great opportunity for me to include Boo in my work with Habitat. He is too young to go on a real build site, but the Gingerbread Build is perfect for him. We may not be building actual homes for families in need, but 100% of funds raised from this initiative go directly to that home building. I made sure to talk to him about why we were there, and why this organisation means so much to me.

 

Although the build weekend is over, take-home gingerbread kits are available until Friday, Dec. 19, so there’s still time to get yours and make a difference in the lives of GTA families waiting for their home. Visit gingerbreadbuild.weebly.com for all the details and to place your order. And don’t forget – you can also purchase a kit to donate to a family living in a local shelter, to make their holidays a little brighter.

* Gourmet Gingerbread kits include one 9″ gingerbread house in cellophane wrap, two gingerbread cookies, one red “tool box”, two bags of icing, oodles of candies and a tax receipt! *
Disclosure: I am a P&Gmom. As part of my affiliation with this group I receive products and special access to P&G events and opportunities. The opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yesterday was my *cough* 39th *cough* birthday. (Or something like that.) I have been saying that I didn’t really care about my birthday this year. I’ve, you know, had a lot of them. But, when the day actually came, it suddenly was a big deal after all. My husband is away, so there was no one to pamper me. He had bought cards and had the boys sign them in advance, and they gave those to me. But, instead of having someone to look after me all day, I had to look after them instead.

The best Happy Birthday Images | Happy birthday fun

Birthday breakfast you pick up yourself just does not taste the same.

But in this digital age I had many, many well-wishes on Facebook, and that did feel nice. And then a couple of friends came over to clean my house, and brought that humongous cupcake pictured above. Friends who each clean a bathroom and then help you purge your child’s messy bedroom? Pretty Awesome!

And it just kept getting better. Another dear friend sent me a message saying she was coming over. I haven’t seen her in way too long, so I was delighted. But when she walked in with cakepops? I was even happier for her visit 🙂 We had a great catch-up chat and I truly enjoyed our evening.

So, is there a point to this post? I think there’s a couple. First, if you have a friend who is feeling a little down, there are so many gestures that can help. And asking how you can help isn’t always the best way. Just show up, or send a warning message first, but then show up. Just being there to distract or chat or entertain or whatever can mean so much. And bringing a meal, or cleaning a room is such a huge help if you know someone’s feeling overwhelmed. And sweets are always welcome! And, second, try not to let a bad start to a day get you down too far. Be open to possibilities and allow people in to turn your day around.

Finish Quantum vs. Eggplant Parmigiana

Cheesy, yummy goodness. I love eggplant parmigiana. It’s not the fave of the rest of my family, but sometimes Mom gets to pick the meal. When that happens around here, it’s usually some kind of baked pasta. Often lasagna, but eggplant parmigiana is a special treat.

Eggplant: Health benefits and nutritional information

However, as yummy as it is, I don’t love cleaning up after it. Baked on mozzarella and parm are not fun to get off. Check out this baked-on, hardened, sticky mess.

 

The bottom of the pan is never too bad, since it’s the eggplant slices that sit directly on it. But the edges are always coated with stuck-on, baked-on cheese. In my experience, this is not an easy clean-up job.

This is the type of dish that Hubs would just put in the dishwasher. Then I would re-wash it with a nylon scrubbie after it came out. (We have a history with this. Sometimes I wonder if he does it on purpose to create more work for me, since he doesn’t really like baked pastas.)

I have not had much success with my usual detergent getting off baked-on cheese, or starchy things like mashed potatoes or white rice. But, since I have joined the #FinishRevolution, and I have been challenged to get a messy dinner cleaned up with Finish Quantum in the dishwasher … in it went.

I did wait til the next night to get a full load as well. So it had some time to really dry out and set in. Was I nervous? A little. But Finish Quantum had been doing well for me so far.

The results? Surprising and exciting! See for yourself:

 

 

Sparkly clean! There were a few little dried bits left (you can see one if you look closely at the first picture). But they flicked off with my fingernail. The turners came clean too:

 

(Please ignore the holes in my counter top. It’s on “the list.”)

What do you think? Personally, I think this experiment was a success!

McHappy Day is Wednesday, May 2

My experience with labour and birth (and the whole pregnancy for that matter) was less than ideal. I won’t get into the gory details here, but suffice it to say, my water broke early, I didn’t go into labour, many tubes, needles, sensors and machines were involved, and eventually it all ended with an urgent C-section.

McHappy Day is May 8th - Star 98.3

It was termed a “traumatic” birth.

My son was born at 37 weeks, weighing 5lbs 2oz., at 5:02 in the evening. He was tiny and beautiful. And shaking. By 10pm a neonatal paediatrician came and took him away to the level 3 NICU.

 

I have never been so terrified in my life. Thankfully, tests showed we were only dealing with low (scary low) blood sugar levels. But they just wouldn’t stabilise. Little Boo spent the first 15 days of his life in the NICU, surrounded by monitors, being fed through tubes and IVs. He had so much blood work done his tiny little heels were a mass of scabs. And there were days it felt like he would never leave that hospital.

But we were lucky. We live in the big city and I could come every day and sit with him, and go home at night to rest. There were other sweet little babies there whose parents just couldn’t do that. I can’t begin to imagine what they were going through.

On May 2, you can help support Ronald McDonald House Canada (RMHC), just by making a purchase at a McDonald’s near you. For every BigMac, Happy Meal, and hot McCafe drink purchased, McDonald’s will donate $1 to local children’s charities, including RMHC.

RMHC provides a home away from home for families while their children receive needed treatment in nearby hospitals. These homes keep families together at a difficult time, allowing children to have the support of their parents during their hospital stays. And allowing parents the security of staying with their kids.

Did you know? McDonald’s Canada covers the entire operating costs of RMHC, so 100% of every dollar donated goes directly to programming. That is a fantastic number!

So, what are you doing Wednesday? Why not stop by McDonald’s for that morning coffee? Or maybe head there with the kids for a special dinner treat? If you can find one with a PlayPlace, you’ll be an even bigger hit with your kids, and you’ll know that your purchase will contribute to a great cause.

Disclosure: I am participating in the #McHappyDay Blogger program through shesconnected.com. A donation to RMHC has been made in my name. No other compensation has been received. All opinions on this blog remain, as always, my own.

HGG2012 – Space Chums (CD)

More fun kids’ music on the gift guide today! Little Boo and I recently had a listen to the new CD from Toronto-based children’s entertainers, the Space Chums!, and I’m delighted to share it with you now.

 

The Space Chums! are Disco-Cosmonaut Nickolai, Space Ninja Linda, Galacto-Fashionista Gussy and Bleep Bloop their robot drummer. They have recently arrived from outer space and are on a mission to discover planet earth with the help of their young earthling fans “who know a thing or two about a thing or three.” Their CD is titled “Blast Off!” and includes 10 high-energy, dance-able tracks. I say we had “a listen,” but actually we put the CD on repeat and listened about 4 times through in the car.

 

Little Boo and I each had our own favourites. I’m a big fan of “Beeble Bop,” which is basically a silly and funny, speeding up song. LB really got into the groovy “Crazy Moves,” acting out the lyrics with his crazy booster seat dancing. “I got crazy arms, watch me dancin’, dancin’. I got crazy arms, watch me dance!” There’s also some fun rhyming action in “Word Wizard,” where Disco-Cosmonaut Nickolai proves his prowess by rhyming even the prehistoric word icthyosaurus. You’ll have to listen to hear how he does it ??

Kids’ music that is fun, upbeat, and pleasing to adult ears is always a welcome addition to our home. Music that gets you moving and grooving together as a family is a great idea for holiday giving. If you’d like to check out “Blast Off!” for yourself, you can stream it on the Space Chums website for a preview. You can support the group and purchase this album online at CDBaby.com, either as a physical copy or an MP3 download. (Songs can be purchased individually as well.) The physical CD comes with a sticker sheet for some extra fun.

 

 

A Giveaway

The Chums have kindly provided a copy of their intergalactic CD (with stickers!) as a giveaway for one of you lucky readers. Entries are via the Rafflecopter widget below and will be accepted until 12:00 midnight EST on December 7. Open to Canadian residents only.

 

Best of luck!

underWAY – review and giveaway

I’ve mentioned here before that I’m trying to lose some weight. I think many of us, especially as we are staring down the barrel of swimsuit season, are feeling the same way. I’ve been trying to cut back on my calorie intake, and drinking lots of water, but I find I am always starving!!! And a hungry me is not a pleasant me. (Just ask the Hubs.)

Underway or Under Way – The Correct Way to Use Each - Queens, NY ...

 

So, I was pretty excited to hear about this product – underWAY supplement drinks – and to be invited to try it out and participate in this MomCentral blog tour. I was sent a big package of underWay drinks and Smart for Life products (cookies, cupcakes, soup, cereal, shake, etc.)

I received 4 bottles each of two flavours of underWAY – grape and acai-pomegranate. Each bottle is considered to be two servings – 10 calories per serving and only 2 grams of carbs. Each bottle has 9 grams of fibre. The drink is not only a supplement, but an appetite suppressant. The fibre is a special formulation called HeroFiber, a soluble dietary fiber that helps maintain normal levels of cholesterol, glucose and insulin that are already in the normal range and promotes slower absorption so we feel fuller longer. So, drinking one of these between meals, you are not only hydrating with a sodium- and caffeine-free beverage, you are also tricking your stomach into thinking you are consuming more calories than you are, and fighting against the urge to snack. Plus, we all know fibre is important in our diet, so getting more is a good thing.

Of the two flavours, grape is definitely my favourite, though both are good. I guess I would compare them to something like a sport drink flavour, or weak kool-aid. Not too intense, not really sweet, nicely refreshing. I found the Acai-Pomegranate to have a bit of an aftertaste, though it didn’t last long. The Grape I am really enjoying and haven’t noticed any aftertaste. There is also an Orange flavour, according to the website. I’m not sure how to describe this, but the drink felt “hearty” going down. Not thick really, but substantial. I had one last night on my way to an event, having not had time to eat dinner. I was hungry, but not starving. I drank a full underWAY and I really did feel satisfied and conquered my desire to dash through a drive-thru somewhere on my way. I was happy with that. I can see these drinks working well for me during my work day. I am particularly prone to giving in to snack cravings and tummy rumblings mid-morning and mid-afternoon, when I’m sitting at my desk and healthy options are not plentiful. I will be bringing a bottle to work with me each day next week to see how they help me stay on track, while not feeling those hunger pangs (I hope!).

I also received the selection of Smart for Life products. I’ve been reading about their Cookie and Cupcake Diets. You can get more information through the link below, but, basically, you replace most of your meals and snacks over a period of time with regularly consumed cookies or cupcakes that are filled with healthful ingredients and specially formulated fibre. They all contain a balance of fruits, veggies, proteins and grains designed to give maximum nutritional punch. I have been trying another diet plan that included snack and meal replacement bars, and I have to say that I find the Smart for Life product much more appealing. I found the other replacements I had tried tended to be sweet and sugary tasting. I don’t have a big sweet tooth to begin with, so this doesn’t really work for me. But the Smart for Life cookies are filling and tasty and not sweet. I think I might actually be able to keep that up. And you can substitute one of their soups or cereals for a cookie or cupcake serving, adding variety. (Plus you eat a healthy dinner – details in the diet plan.)

 

You can learn more about Smart for Life and underWAY products, developed by physician Dr. Sasson Moulavi, at www.smartforlife.com and www.under-way.com. Check this out for yourself and see if you think these products are something you think could help you achieve your healthy weight goals.

 

Now for the big fun … my first giveway! Yes, MomCentral and underWAY are providing ten prize packages to lucky blog commenters. These packages will contain eight bottles of underWAY supplement drink, plus an assortment of Smart for Life products. The same package as I received to try out for this blog tour, so you could try out this program for free too. To enter, please simply leave a comment below telling me why you would like to try underWAY and/or Smart for Life products. Contest closes on August 4. I will be choosing 10 winners from all comments received, using random.org. Contest is open to Canadian residents only. You may enter the contest through multiple blogs participating in this tour, but can only win once. *Be sure to include an email or a Twitter handle so I can contact you if you win!*

 

In the meantime, if you want to try the drink out for yourself you can receive a 10% discount on online orders of underWAY with the following code: MCCAN10OFFUW.

 

Disclosure – I am participating in the underWAY program by Mom Central on behalf of Better Health Beverage, LLC. I received a gift card as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Summer Reading

We received our last Scholastic book order of the year last week. I love browsing the catalogues and picking out books almost as much as Little Boo does, and I’m already looking forward to our first order in September.

First Day of Summer 2019: June 21 marks summer solstice, longest ...

But for now we are well-equipped with some new reading to keep us going this summer. We got a variety of books to appeal to Little Boo’s interests, so that he will enjoy keeping his reading skills fresh during the school break.
That’s really the key, I think, to getting and keeping our kids interested in reading. Be open to trying different genres and different types of stories until you find what really grabs your little one. Speaking with his or her teacher can be a big help here – what books are they drawn to in the classroom?

Little Boo is a strong reader, but won’t always sit still to read a story book. (He likes stories to be read to him.) He will, however, sit and devour what he calls “fact books.” He has a huge collection now of non-fiction books on dinosaurs, sea creatures, and space. With this latest Scholastic batch, we picked out a book on tree identification. He asks about trees and plants a lot, and we can now use this on our walks and trips this summer. He already enjoys reading through my bird identification books, so this was a great find for him.

even our stuffies love to read

If you have a reluctant reader, you may just catch their attention with a chapter book based on one of their favourite cartoons. Spongebob, Ninjago, Spiderman, Beyblades, Scooby-Doo, Pokemon, and more all have books for early and mid-readers.

And don’t be too quick to pass over the comic books or graphic novels. They are kind of annoying to read out loud to your kid, but a great way to get a reluctant reader engaged. The graphics can keep a visual child interested, and the shorter bursts of writing are easier to digest.

Also, when Little Boo was learning to read, I liked the I Spy books. These are great for early readers, as they combine a picture with a word, and then the activity of the treasure hunt to find the object in the big image. Again, for my guy, this kept his interest and helped him start the process of identifying words and building literacy basics.

What do your kids like to read? Do you set aside a special time each day for reading? I’d love to hear any tips you have to encourage a love of reading in your family!

Bullied Kids Speak Out: We Survived – How You Can Too {Book Review}

Bullying is an ever-present issue in our schools, and even in our workplaces. And our news feeds contain far too many stories of the terrible, and sometimes fatal, results that can come from bullying. I don’t know if it actually occurs more these days than it did when I was a kid, but I do know that smartphones, Facebook, SnapChat, and other means of digital communications have made the spread of hateful messages easier and faster, providing greater opportunities for bullies to do their nasty work. Our kids can’t escape their bullies just by coming home at the end of the school day.

Here's what you need to know about bullying.

Jodee Blanco is a writer and speaker who has spent the last twelve years touring schools throughout the US to spread her anti-bullying message and offer support to affected students. A survivor of bullying herself, Jodee draws on her own experiences to illustrate in her talks how bullying affects the victim, and how everyone can better work together to bring an end to the torment.

Her latest book, Bullied Kids Speak Out, brings together the stories of seventeen kids she’s worked with over the years. This volume allows them to tell their stories in their own voices, directed specifically at other kids struggling with bullying. As she says, “sometimes it takes a kid, and not an adult, no matter how well-intentioned, to reach another kid in pain and get them to do something about it.” Each story is followed with comments from Jodee, drawing out key points of what went wrong and what went right, ending with words of encouragement and suggestions for action for any young person in a similar position.

 

This is a powerful book including stories from bullies as well as the bullied. One of the stories is even about a bullying teacher. Since the stories are in the kids’ own words, they can be a little odd to read as an adult. Slang and texting short forms are commonly used, and the stories are not polished in any literary sense. But they are real and authentic. This book is geared to tweens and teens and would certainly feel familiar and appeal to them.

The young people represented in this book have bravely come forward to share their experiences and are to be commended. I particularly like the broad variety of situations depicted and how this shows the variety of ways in which bullying can manifest. This would be an important book to have in school libraries and a good read for any tween or teen, but particularly for anyone who finds himself or herself the victim of bullies. These stories not only provide confirmation that you are not alone, but, importantly, provide ideas and examples of how to make things better.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book to facilitate this review. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.